Early on the morning of Jan. 31, our sport suffered the loss of one of its greatest living treasures. Eddie Logan, Santa Anita Park’s shoeshine attendant since the track’s opening day Dec. 25, 1934, died at his home at the age of 98.
Known to all simply as the “footman,” Eddie was truly one of a kind. As anyone familiar with Eddie will attest, a visit to his shoeshine stand resulted in much more than revitalized leather footwear. It meant the opportunity to step back in time and hear tales told by a man who’d spent a lifetime at the edge of racing history.
Eddie’s life is worthy of our marvel for many reasons. First, how many people do you know who spent nearly 75 years with the same employer?
To realize that Eddie spent more years at Santa Anita Park than encompass the entire lifespan of the average man is truly astounding. Eddie was no average man. When Eddie’s racetrack career began, consider that FDR was in the second year of his presidency, the country was only about halfway through the Great Depression, and the start of World War II was still five years away. Eddie’s earliest customers enjoyed a day at the races not solely because they loved racing, but also because it was an era in which horses were still much more familiar to them than automobiles.
Eddie was born in Arkansas, May 20, 1910, and grew up in Kansas City, Mo. A one-time Negro League baseball player for the Kansas City Monarchs, Eddie regaled his customers with stories of barnstorming tours with none other than Satchel Paige and Babe Ruth. Eddie also spent time as a professional boxer. The promise of richer prize money ultimately drew him to California in 1930, incidentally the same motivation that brings horsemen West. In 1932, while Santa Anita Park was under construction, Eddie was hired to, among other things, herd the area’s ubiquitous peacocks back to their proper lodgings on the western side of Baldwin Avenue. This conjures up a humorous yet familiar image to a native Arcadian like myself. The problem of wayward peacocks in the city of Arcadia is as prevalent today as it was in 1932.
I had the privilege of training at Santa Anita Park for a brief period in the late 1990s. During that time I rubbed elbows with some of the circuit’s iconic figures, but none made a more lasting impression on me than Eddie. Walking the Santa Anita Park grounds, I was always struck by the architecture, the beauty of the gardens, and, of course, the incomparable San Gabriel Mountains backdrop. The sense of racing history was all around. But it was truly brought to life by Eddie’s presence. His warmth and sense of humor made everyone who entered his orbit adjacent to the grandstand executive offices feel welcome. His ability to relate to people, regardless of age or worldly stature, was something to behold.
I remember several years ago taking my young daughter to her first Saturday at the races. There were many things at Santa Anita that I wanted her to see. On my list was the park’s famous bronze statue of Seabiscuit, a name she knew quite well from my numerous in-home screenings of the movie. As we progressed toward Eddie’s station, I told her that the man she was about to meet was actually around to see the real Seabiscuit run; an amazing concept to her as Seabiscuit was a figure from the “old days.” Eddie, grandfatherly and warm as ever, addressed her as “little darling” and proceeded to sit her on his stand and give her a demonstration of the miracles he could perform with leather. He told her that his job was to take care of the people’s feet. She asked him if he also took care of the horses’ feet. He laughed and said, “the horses wouldn’t fit on my stand.” She got a kick out of that.
From 1934 to 2009, Eddie was as much a part of Santa Anita as the grandstand itself. He loved racing and his work ethic and dedication made him a kindred spirit to the greatest of horsemen. If a man’s wealth can most essentially be measured by the love and respect he’s earned from his fellow human beings, Eddie Logan, humble and human to the last, was a wealthy man indeed.
Former trainer Jeff Morris resides in Cary, N.C., with his wife and three children.
Watch the HRTV Inside Information feature on Eddie Logan